They were for the Constitution before they were against it

Two interesting tidbits from this story about proposed spending cuts increases cuts before Congress. First, Sen. Arlen Specter impersonating Rep. Tom Delay:

“We’re beyond cutting the fat and beyond the bone. We’re down to the marrow,” said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who plans to introduce an amendment today to raise spending on health care, education and worker safety by billions of dollars above the president’s request for next year.

I suppose a cheesy smile for the mug shot camera is next up on Sen. Specter’s busy agenda? Here’s a hint: check the Constitution and you’ll find the general guidelines for where Congress should be spending federal dollars. There may be a few unwritten implications since the founders couldn’t possibly have foreseen how significantly the world would change in the first few centuries of the Republic. However, I’m fairly certain they knew about areas such as education. Somehow that oversight probably wasn’t implied. Resume cost-cutting there.

Next, this engaging theory:

Reps. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Calif.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.) plan to unveil legislation today that would raise spending on port security by $801 million a year. That bill nearly equals a bipartisan Senate legislation that would raise annual port security spending by $835 million. Both bills are scheduled for quick action in the House and Senate homeland security committees in the coming weeks.

Proponents of the measures say the government has avoided such spending for too long under the guise of fiscal restraint. Three times since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the House has voted against Democratic efforts to raise spending on port security. But in the wake of a Dubai company’s effort to take over management responsibilities at six major U.S. ports, such opposition appears to be collapsing.

“There simply is no cheap way to be better prepared,” Lieberman said yesterday.

There isn’t a direct connection between port security and spending reductions, but I’m sure a reasonable person could indirectly link over-spending on non-federal issues (and pork barrel madness) with a reduced availability to fund legitimate federal needs like national security. Granted, I don’t have the wisdom of a congressman, so it’s just a thought. I’m just saying that “no cheap way” doesn’t mean we should just throw money around because it makes us feel better. For instance, on health care and education. Maybe if we spent only on legitimate funding needs, we’d stop worrying about cheap and stop focusing on effective.

Stuff a mattress with me. Ha!

The GOP held a conference over the weekend, ostensibly to prepare for the November elections. Naturally, it’s also an easy chance to stage a presidential run among many party leaders. With nearly three years left under President Bush, I’m more amused by the posturing than who is and isn’t the front-runner. Of note is the Reagan mantra that I suspect will be prevalent until November 2008, if it’s successful. Given how Pavlovian the Republican response is to President Reagan, I suspect it will be. As evidence, consider:

“Now that he’s gone, he’s become a symbolic figure,” said Phil Zimmerly, 23, a law student from Tuscaloosa, Ala., adding that might happen to President Bush in 20 or 30 years.

“Reagan had a record all the way through and it turned out all right. This one’s not over. The jury’s still out,” said John Griffee, 77, of Marion, Ark., about Bush’s legacy. “A couple of things go right in the next six months, this will be a whole different game.”

I’ve said before that I hope that can happen, but only because I’m not interested in seeing President Bush fail. However, I’ve been paying attention for the last five years. I have no confidence in what will happen in the next three years. The jury might be out, and I can’t wait to see the revisionism once President Bush leaves office, but contrary to Mr. Griffee’s hope, it’s precisely because a couple of things have to go right for Bush’s legacy to be better. Relying on external forces to save your reputation is not a great reflection on how much you deserve to be the party’s future symbolic future.

This next assessment is more telling on the state of the GOP, since it implies a significant portion of the problem while deflecting the appropriate blame:

“We’re a party in fear right now. We’re a party trying not to lose,” [Sen. Lindsey] Graham said.

Congress bears part of the blame because members have spent money poorly and failed to curb ethics abuses, Graham said, but Bush has made missteps, too: “We didn’t have enough troops in Iraq, we didn’t have our political antennae up about the port deal. He hasn’t vetoed any spending bills. He needs to.

President Bush hasn’t vetoed any spending bills, or any other bills, but they don’t show up on his desk by magic. Maybe Sen. Graham and his colleagues should consider not sending bills worthy of being vetoed. Until that happens, I can only conclude that they don’t care about fiscal responsibility, and spend money recklesslessly because they know they can get away with it. When the election slogan could be “We’re better than the Democrats,” the party isn’t really leading. Being followed is dangerous to everyone once you’ve bankrupted your principles.

Deep thoughts need not apply

People surfing the Internets arrive at Rolling Doughnut through various methods. Some show up intentionally, others follow results from a search engine. Those search queries elicit a range of responses from me. Usually it’s something basic like “Mmmm”, but occasionally something comes along that’s disgusting (write about circumcision and you’ll get disgusting searches). T hose make me wonder about the fate of humanity. But not as much as searches like this. This concerns me more:

who were VJs for MTV in the 70’s

Can our society really be that dumb? I doubt it, but judging by the number of people who still visit here looking for images of Nick Lachey’s penis, I wonder.

As an experiment, I’m going to change tactics of writing for just this post. Normally I get a couple dozen hits per day writing about politics, economics, and my other serious topics. Danielle expanded her repertoire a few weeks ago and started writing about a few of the reality shows we watch, specifically American Idol, Flavor of Love, and There and Back. Sure, they’re mindless shows, but they provide entertainment and we have low standards sometimes. They also increased her daily hits by a factor of 10.

There’s no contestant to root for in There and Back, but we’re amused by Ashley Parker Angel. Mostly we’re laughing with him, but sometimes it ventures into laughing at him. Those are the fun moments, if only because we get to act like the thirty-somethings we are. “Kids!” we shout. Stop whining. But mostly it’s just a fun way to pass 30 minutes.

American Idol and Flavor of Love, by comparison, have us quite invested in who wins. With American Idol, Danielle wants Chris Daughtry to win, while I’m pulling for Taylor Hicks. We both (not so) secretly want Kevin Covais to really win. He’s not the best singer in the competition, but he’s definitely the most entertaining and likable of the group. And he comes across as genuine and unashamed to be on American Idol. Taylor Hicks is the same, although logic would suggest that he, like Chris, should be most embarrassed. I love that he’s not ashamed, either.

As for the rest, Kellie Pickler needs to stop with the “aw, shucks” crap, even if it’s real. We don’t think it is. Lisa Tucker comes off as too polished by years of talent contests and Star Search appearances. A 16-year-old shouldn’t appear quite so devoid of a soul. Paris Bennett should just go away. Her voice drives me nuts. It’s not her fault, although the rest of her act bothers me, too, and that’s definitely her fault. Mandisa has potential because she can sing. I just think her performances are all over the place. Each part of the song gets a little bit different treatment just to show what she can do. Reign it in and demonstrate some control. Melissa McGhee has talent. I want her to finish strong because I enjoy the tone of her voice. But she has to work to connect with the audience more. Katharine McPhee is easily the most talented of the women. I want her to go very far.

I’ve already stated that I want Chris, Taylor, and Kevin to be the top 3. I know that won’t happen, but I can dream. The guys receive a much better review as a group than the girls. Bucky Covington’s “Aw, shucks” routine is a little annoying, but his seems authentic. And I think he’s got potential if he starts choosing songs better suited to his voice. Elliott Yamin has amazing control over his voice, singing his way through any demands of a song. Mandisa could learn something from Elliott about using a brilliant voice. Elliott’s from Richmond, too, which makes me happy. The less I say about Ace Young, the better. He needs to go away.

As rigged as we suspect American Idol is, we know Flavor of Love is rigged. From the beginning it was obvious that New York had to be in the finale because she’s so annoying. She’s the character designed to drive viewers crazy. Contrary to that intention, Danielle and i quote her. There are few situations in life not improved by a quote from New York. After all, she’s an “inspiring” actress. What’s not to enjoy.

New York’s confrontation with Pumkin was clearly staged. It worked out too well, and the loogie she spit at New York seemed digitally inserted into the film. Although she claims it hit her chin, New York never wipes her chin. That defies logic given the mass of spittle shown. She wouldn’t complain about just her hair. But it provided much entertainment, despite being clearly fake.

As for who should “win” in tonight’s finale, since it can’t be Goldie, Danielle and I are pulling for Hoopz. Hoopz is the only contestant who could be described as attractive. She’s also presented as reasonable and genuine, which I enjoy. Justice demands that the script call for her to win. That won’t happen, of course, because the possibilities for Season 2 are endless if New York wins. But I can hope. Go Hoopz.

I suspect very few people reached the end of this post, but if it seems like I went through the exercise of inserting everyone’s name just to see what Google searches I receive, you’re correct.

D.C. gets the government it deserves

I’d planned to go into more detail about Wednesday’s hearing weighing the merits of a proposed flat tax experiment in D.C. I would’ve discussed Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s simple-minded objections and the progressive taxation double-standard she wants to perpetuate. Now that I’m writing the post, I’m unmotivated by the specifics of the issue. All sides are interested in ideological sound bites more than intelligent reform.

Instead, I wish Congress would “experiment” with a flat tax for the whole nation, but I’m paying attention enough to see that Congress has shown no will in recent years to address serious tax reform. If it wants to talk a big game about trying an optional flat tax experiment in the District, that’s wonderful. Maybe then we can see some progress back to common sense. Initially, though, it’s not going to affect me because even the flat tax isn’t enough to make me move into the District, to be governed by its incompetent local politicians.

Instead, this quote is interesting:

Shadow senator Paul Strauss (D), who sat in the audience, said, “They think of us as a state when it comes to federal liabilities.”

“When it comes to federal rights,” he added, “they think of us as a laboratory rat.”

Apart from being the first time I realized D.C. has a shadow senator, I’m amused that Mr. Strauss seems not to have read the Constitution. The Constitution says what it says about D.C. and its treatment. And to think Congress will do anything other than treat all of us the District as more than laboratory rats with deep pockets is simply laughable.

But here’s the key point in this debate. If you don’t like it, move. It’s that simple. Like the residents of D.C., I have a choice of where to live in this region. I choose to live in Virginia. I understand there are good and bad aspects of that. I’ve concluded that the benefits outweigh the costs. Unless there’s some nefarious force enslaving people in the District, I fail to see the causal link.

Work to change the Constitution or move.

Is it better to be a moron than a deadbeat?

This story about a push for men to be able to opt out of financially supporting a child if they don’t want the child is a few days old already and it’s been analyzed to death. I don’t think it needs any deep analysis, since it should be clear that sex can lead to children. Anyone who doesn’t know this shouldn’t be engaging in sex. With respect to this case, it’s possible to argue that the two now-parents had a contract that the woman violated. I have no idea how valid that argument is or how contract law would treat that. What remains as obvious is that if you have sex, you deal with the consequences.

What’s interesting in this story is this:

State courts have ruled in the past that any inequity experienced by men like Dubay is outweighed by society’s interest in ensuring that children get financial support from two parents. Melanie Jacobs, a Michigan State University law professor, said the federal court might rule similarly in Dubay’s case.

“The courts are trying to say it may not be so fair that this gentleman has to support a child he didn’t want, but it’s less fair to say society has to pay the support,” she said.

This is absurd. This is the same reasoning that traps men into financially supporting children later proven to be another man’s child, just so the child may cared for by someone, anyone with a paycheck. Or, if the parents separate, the courts and state laws default to the idea that the mother is the more qualified full-time caregiver and the father is the more qualified financial caretaker, facts be damned. This is the inequity that should be under attack. When it’s possible for the mother to have custody 90% of the time (or more), yet the father is responsible for 70% of the cost (or more) because he makes a higher salary, something is wrong. I’m not advocating paying for possession of the child, for lack of a better description, but both parents are responsible for conceiving the child. It’s inherently unfair to use “he can afford it” (sometimes he can’t) as a legal basis, yet to pretend that the father is too incompetent to care for his child for more than one or two weekends per month. Still, courts do it all the time.

If a man has sex, he should be responsible. Perhaps some middle ground solution is possible on reproductive rights surrounding wanted vs. unwanted children. It’s “unfair” that women get more control between conception and birth in this situation, but simple biology dictates that more than anything. The practical solution is inevitably going to be ugly. It shouldn’t be stupid after the child’s birth, though, and that’s where these activists need to push legislators and courts to fix the system.

Are we building Ewok Village 2000 2006?

I’m still amazed at how oblivious to logic some politicians can be. Throw in fiscal recklessness and it’s a plan for future disaster. Consider:

President Bush, in his first visit to New Orleans since two reports criticized the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, today urged Congress to approve a $4.2 billion initiative to help Louisiana residents who lost their homes in the Aug. 29 storm.

“We’ve all been working together to figure out how to come up with a housing plan that will restore the confidence of the people in this important part of our country,” Bush said. “In order to make sure that housing plan meets its goals, Congress should make sure that the $4.2 billion I requested goes to the state of Louisiana.”

It’s important to ask whether it’s justified to “restore the confidence of the people” in Louisiana through transfer payments from the rest of the country. I don’t choose to live in an area that sees hurricane activity every year, yet I’m expected to pay my share so that families in Louisiana can live happily on the Gulf Coast, without the financial risk equal to their clear exposure. Under his scenario, President Bush should know that any confidence increase in the Gulf region is zero-sum for the United States.

Need further proof why? Behold:

Speaking in front of a broken levee in New Orleans’ hardest-hit Lower Ninth Ward, Bush spoke of a plan that would make as much as $150,000 available to each homeowner.

Since we’re stuck bailing out an irresponsible system, isn’t it reasonable to expect that we’ll rebuild the region’s defenses before we fund other rebuilding? Hurricane season isn’t that far off.

Put that on the posters and see how it sells

Updating last week’s post about South Dakota’s new abortion bill, Governor Mike Rounds signed the bill. There’s little surprise there, and nothing really commenting further about regarding the specific topic. Instead, I’d like to highlight a quote from Gov. Rounds:

“In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society. The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them,” Rounds said in the statement.

That’s a great sentiment, but why do so many Americans only support strict interpretations on that theme? Can anyone imagine a day in which Gov. Rounds would issue a statement like this?

“In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society. The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that routine infant circumcision is wrong because children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them,” Rounds said in the statement.

It shouldn’t be such an intellectual leap.

Can we claim national identity theft?

This is mostly a formality, since Congress never fails to authorize such requests from Treasury, but it’s worth noting that the request appeared. Again. Consider:

Treasury Secretary John Snow notified Congress on Monday that the administration has now taken “all prudent and legal actions,” including tapping certain government retirement funds, to keep from hitting the $8.2 trillion national debt limit.

In a letter to Congress, Snow urged lawmakers to pass a new debt ceiling immediately to avoid the nation’s first-ever default on its obligations.

We’re spending ourselves into oblivion. Nothing new to see here, folks. This is what happens when Congress spends and the president encourages it. Of special importance, though, is the amusing manner in which the Treasury is plugging the hole until Congress intervenes. We can’t default, so it’s better to use raid the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and the Government Securities Investment Fund of the Federal Employees Retirement System. They’ll get paid back, and all that, but it reveals a lot about the sanctity of trust funds managed by the government, no?

Two quotes from the story merit attention:

“Simply raising the limit on George W. Bush’s credit card and crossing our fingers won’t solve anything,” [Charles] Rangel, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “Any long-term debt limit increase must be accompanied by a serious effort to bring our budget back to the balance we achieved under the Clinton administration.”

The credit card may be signed by President Bush, but the purchases are made by Congress. Glass houses, Rep. Rangel. Glass houses.

On a side note, I’m sure this need for fiscal sanity is one example of why President Bush wants the line item veto.

“I know that you share the president’s and my commitment to maintaining the full faith and credit of the U.S. government,” Snow said in his letter to leaders in the House and Senate.


Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?

This recent story from The Washington Post reflects what I think is essential surrounding reasonable immigration policy.

Five years after African immigrants began flocking to this former mill town, city officials say they still are not qualified for many of the jobs the city has to offer. In response, Lewiston [Maine] is enforcing one of the country’s most aggressive policies aimed at speeding assimilation: Somalis here often must take English classes, or risk losing some welfare benefits.

“ESL,” said assistant city administrator Phil Nadeau, summing up the city’s English-as-a-second-language philosophy, “is everything.”

It’s virtually impossible to argue that English fluency is not essential to success in America. Sure, some may succeed despite a lack of fluency, but that will result from the nature of a closed community, but the opportunity for growth and new ideas becomes limited with a refusal to stretch beyond a non-English speaking group within the United States.

Accordingly, requiring English lessons for immigrants receiving welfare benefits is legitimate. I’m bypassing the “should immigrants get welfare” aspect because it’s not necessary for the point I want to make. Replace welfare with citizenship in the argument, if necessary. On whatever terms, English is our language. Individuals need basic English skills to function in society. Someone who can’t function isn’t likely to stay off welfare for any extended period. That’s not helpful to any community.

Further in, the article presents a voice of doubt on whether the requirement is useful, since some individuals attend only because it’s required, and as a result, don’t bother to learn. I don’t doubt that happens, but I also assume that such any legitimate program would include some mechanism to prove that the student makes progress throughout the course and can pass some level of proficiency at the end. Given how easily that fear could be applied to many American students wasting their time in high school, should we not require students to attend school until adulthood? Regardless, I think the critical view, that immigrants can’t or won’t learn, is absurd. Requiring an immigrant to know or learn English basic English puts the onus on the individual. If the person doesn’t want to help himself, the majority of the community that accepts responsibility for themselves shouldn’t be burdened. Providing support for the deserving poor shouldn’t be charity without expectations.

Smart immigration policy reflects a truth that should be apparent to anyone watching the cultural conflicts around the world in recent months. Multi-cultural societies don’t work. Not multi-racial, for that’s a benign concept for a culture. A refusal to accept multi-cultural means that assimilation is essential. Individuals can retain pieces of their past and useful cultural associations, but it’s essential to understand that America represents the principles and beliefs imparted by freedom and liberty. America includes cultural aspects from nations all around the world, but our ideas and culture are uniquely ours. Immigrants should expect to become Americans, not citizens of separate entities residing within the physical borders of the United States. English is a common bond, and as such, should be expected.

Shoot the lumbering dinosaur

I’ve mentioned in the past that I listen to Howard Stern and that I was a Sirius subscriber and stockholder long before Mr. Stern announced that he’d signed with Sirius. In the entries I’ve written, I’ve mostly exhausted what I could say about CBS’s frivolous lawsuit against Mr. Stern. Here’s a snippet of what I wrote when Infinity (owned by CBS) suspended him in November:

Free commercials are wonderful, but that’s what makes this suspension laughable. He’s been ranting about this or that offense by the FCC and/or K-Rock since almost the moment Sirius announced his new deal. Why would Infinity wait until now to suspend him? If they didn’t like it, they should’ve stopped it immediately, whether through an order or suspension. Waiting until now, more than a year later, Infinity looks stupid.

With this new lawsuit, I can’t imagine the words I need to mock CBS sufficiently.